Here you'll find
Never Forget The Importance of Style
The setting of this story, Dorelion, resembles ours in many respects. Think of Southern Europe around the year 1900 and you might begin to have an inkling. Forget about telephones, automobiles and such. Think about elaborate hairdos, multi-layered skirts, tailored suits, lace, velvet, silk, top hats, suede gloves, polished boots, horse-drawn carriages, champagne... You get the picture. Oh, and rich people - mustn't forget about them.
1. Enter Adonis
Folly, he repeated to himself until the word throbbed in his ears to the rhythm of his bouncing heart, this was folly folly folly folly. Worse than that, actually, it was madness. Purest madness. He would never get out of this.
This wasn't even necessary. The apartment where he'd been living so far had already been sold, and all that money was safely and patiently waiting for him. He knew exactly where it was: in his trivial small room in a nondescript little hotel, in an unlocked drawer, between the empty covers of a very plain faded notebook. All his things lay scattered around the room; on the bed, on worn-out chairs, simple and scarce, uninteresting, a young boy's things.
Any self-respecting thief who might manage to find access to the room wouldn't as much as look twice -- the owner of such items could not possibly possess nearly enough of anything to make even the shortest visit worthwhile. So he would conclude, push gently the door shut again and, after a cautious glance around in the quiet corridor, creep towards the next, maybe more promising room, blissfully unaware of the 650 ten-shanat notes holding their breath in the unlocked top left drawer of the desk in this shabby, shady hotel room, at the moment empty yet temporarily inhabited by a sandy-blond, slim boy of barely seventeen.
This very boy stopped inaudibly in another long corridor, and the sharp expression of his beautiful, bright eyes indicated that he was listening closely to the noises of the house around him. He could hear steps clacking on carefully polished stairs in the other end of the corridor. Then they faded, finally disappearing altogether.
In one of the rooms an open window slammed quietly with the draught and the boy started, then walked on. A door was open and a bright ray of evening sunlight beamed on the luxuriously thick carpet. It was red, ruby red. The boy shivered. Folly, he whispered inaudibly to himself, like a chant. The place was packed with servants and one could never be absolutely certain about servants, even if it was dinnertime. One could never be sure.
A sound. The boy quickly crouched, hiding behind an enormous plush armchair that for some inscrutable reason had been positioned in the corridor. He barely breathed as a housemaid came out of one of the nearby rooms carrying a high pile of clean, lavender-smelling linen, walked stoutly to a solid, dark-brown carved and curved chest of drawers that stood next to the armchair, and began to put each of the white tablecloths and pillow slips painstakingly in their correct places. Having completed this she promptly returned to the room and closed the door again.
Slowly, the boy stood up. His destination was not far away, but he was separated from it by one more room -- the one where the maid had just gone. No options, then, this was the time to start taking chances. A sudden flash of fear seized him, the thought of surrender danced in his eyes for the last time before it was definitely too late, and the boy bit his lip, his luminous gray eyes wide open. Then, like a sly cat, he glided into the room opposite to the one containing the plump housemaid.
The window was high and heavy, the crash might easily break it, but the boy didn't care too much. He pulled it open and observed with satisfaction that the white tulle curtains began to flutter wildly. So the draught was definitely strong enough. He let go of the frame and the window began to close, slowly at first but gathering speed. The boy nodded to himself and balanced the window carefully open once more so as to give himself enough time. The pane shivered uncertainly as he retired back behind the protecting armchair.
Nothing happened for what seemed like an eternity. Then, so suddenly that the boy himself jumped, there was a violent, vibrant slam. With surprising swiftness the maid emerged from the room, crossed the corridor and sailed into the room. Her stern glance was fixed at the offending window that was still trembling slightly, latch open. She failed to see the boy who slipped past the open door behind her.
He heard the maid close both doors again, smiled with relief and eyed the room around him with undisguised contempt. Everything was fashionably colored "old rose", from the velvet canopy over a fluffy bed to the just as fluffy carpet. Even the far too small wings of two overweight seraphs hovering lazily above an oval mirror were rose-colored. There was a distinct smell of some very rosy perfume in the still, overwhelmingly soft air.
The boy felt again the same nausea as before, during the only time when he'd previously set a foot in this room. Its occupant had been away then, the mansion empty. The lady of the household was a spoiled woman who never traveled anywhere without her own staff. Only her own maid knew how to brush her hair, only her own cook could prepare food that did not upset her sensitive stomach, only her own housemaids knew the only correct way to make her bed and to fold her fragrant lace handkerchiefs. And so all the servants had been packed together with her absolutely necessary belongings when she'd traveled to the family's summer villa.
The house had been left deserted... such a ready and interesting playground for her busy husband. It had been absolutely imperative that he visit the town in the middle of season, for important business matters. Which in practice meant his young, attractive, endlessly interesting lover. He'd stay in a hotel, so the man had told his wife, there was no need for him to take a servant along. And upon his arrival he had fetched his lover into the enchanted palace.
It had been four days, not more than that, but the boy knew the place inside out. Such an adventure it had been -- trying to get lost and then figure out his way back to where they had started. His generous admirer had been following him around with an amused gleam in his eyes. Of course they had spent most of the time making love in every bed in the house, excluding only the one in this rosy room. The color and the smell had made the boy feel sick, so he had told the man. They still did. He wrinkled his delicate nose in disapproval, then walked across the room to the toilet desk and sighed, awe-struck by his inconceivable luck.
On the desk lay a large rosewood box with a solid and efficient lock -- lid ajar. The boy cautiously opened it and examined its glistening contents. On top was a small, occasional-looking feather; this was picked up and put carefully aside by slim tanned fingers. The black velvet inside of the box highlighted the jewels: the rings, earrings, bracelets, brooches, necklaces. One by one the boy lifted out the many layers, each loaded with jewelry. His smooth hands were quick, steady, determined. He was not interested.
He had already seen several sets of diamonds, rubies and sapphires, and still the thing he was looking for was hiding somewhere under everything. Then, all of a sudden, it flashed before his eyes: complicated, heavy, massive, old-fashioned, sickeningly pompous, infinitely precious. He lifted it from the box, checked the tiny seals on the back of its lock, then slipped it into his pocket.
One by one he piled the other jewels into the square box once more, neatly on top of each other, placed the feather back on the diamond ring that had held it, and lowered the lid to the same angle it had been before. The boy nodded to it, turned and tiptoed to the door. The necklace in his pocket pressed gently against his thigh.
It was so easy to get out. All the servants were busy with their masters and mistresses who had just about finished their dinner and were now preparing to leave the table and retire into their rooms. They either needed the servants or wanted them to stay out of the way, which gave the boy a brief but convenient respite. Of course he had to be quick, but he had no problem reaching the narrow stairs that led to a side door. Quietly he descended the staircase and stopped to wait, only his eyes alive in the shadow.
An hour later he pulled the door of his hotel room shut and flashed a smug smile to his mirror image, hand digging into his pocket. On the scratched surface of the small desk the necklace looked ridiculously out of place. The boy gave it a sly grin.
In the mirror the room around him looked filthy, with all his things just thrown about. The boy turned with a sigh and began to pick up socks and pants and shirts, folded them one by one and placed them carefully in his small plywood suitcase. The ugly necklace was wrapped into a bundle inside a large handkerchief and crammed under everything. The notebook disappeared under a sweater, then emerged once more. For a moment the boy hesitated before taking three banknotes from a pile. He slipped them into his wallet. Three hundred and thirty-seven shanat. A lot, but not an impossibly unusual sum for someone who was going to travel. Quite enough to take him somewhere in the next stagecoach, in the morning.
The boy washed himself slowly and walked to the bed, naked, smooth skin shining in the dim light. He didn't miss the man too much. Of course it had been nice, their time together. He thought of how they'd met; how the man had implored him to come along, and how he'd been pampered... His lip curled slightly. Oh, the man had adored him; his toy, his hidden release from frustration, a ready escape from the prosperous boredom of marriage. But, predictably, he'd grown increasingly worried over his own name and position, should their little affair come out. And now his anxiety had finally made him push his young lover aside -- and pour money into the boy's hands to ease the guilt that was eating him.
The sandy-haired youth didn't feel insulted, though. Nor did he feel guilt, or regret, or anything else that might have spoiled the moment for him. He had liked the man, liked well enough to thoroughly enjoy the sex, the presents, waking up in the same bed. But he hadn't been in love. And thus this was all very well with him. He hadn't been simply tossed aside and forgotten.
The thrill of the afternoon at last washed over him, making him shiver. He stretched his slim golden body on the bed and just basked in the hailstorm of emotions and excitement, heart beating loud, crazily happy. Panting he stared at the ceiling, a small muscle in his cheek twitched and he rolled on his stomach, ground his hips against the rough blanket until, gradually, the movement grew heavier and more rhythmical. One hand snaked underneath him and he buried his face in the pillow. He moaned at the memory of the man's experienced hands whispering along his thigh, gasped and purred, excited by his own beauty, and finally climaxed on the bed with a sobbing sigh, left arm stretched out, fist clenching on the cheap bedspread.
He would find another one.
He crawled sleepily away from the wet spot and sprawled more comfortably across the bed. The sensuous mouth curved into a languid smile, strangely innocent eyes disappeared slowly behind thick lashes.
The boy was asleep.